Telstra moves ahead with throttling trial

“Only a few hundred” customers will take part in the trial, Telstra says

Telstra has kicked off a controversial network management trial in Victoria, eight months after the telco announced it would trial peer-to-peer throttling.

The telco is now calling for customers in Victoria to take part in the trial in a blog post, with participants to be asked about speed differences on applications such as BitTorrent.

Participants will also be asked about how short-term changes to how Telstra manages its network impacts on their user experience.

Telstra said “only a few hundred” customers will take part in the trial.

The telco has previously said it was conducting the trials to identify different options and pricing plans for its customers in an attempt to manage congestion issues.

However, the announcement was met with public and industry backlash, with John Lindsay, CTO at iiNet, stating it was purely a business decision to avoid upgrading its ADSL network.

“I often describe it as boiling the frog – you just do it by gently turning up the heat,” Lindsay said.

“They are starting to take their customers on a journey. They know what the end point looks like, but they don’t want to describe it too clearly just yet for fear of scaring off the profitable customers.

“Calling it a trial is a nicer way of introducing the concept and the technology into the business.”

Consumer advocacy group, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), also previously expressed concern over the trials, asking the telco for evidence of congestion issues.

“We are concerned that consumer detriment could arise if carriers start slowing down certain applications and while we recognise that Telstra must manage network congestion issues, more transparency is required,” Asher Moses, spokesperson at ACCAN, said.

“We want to know what factors will determine success or failure of this trial and whether there are any plans to extend it to more customers and other types of applications. We are also concerned that the technology required to implement this traffic management system could result in intrusive monitoring and privacy risks for consumers.”

Telstra says its ADSL traffic has doubled every 12 months over the past four years, with the telco telling the ACCC about possible future congestion issues in November last year.

Amid the backlash, David Thodey, CEO at Telstra, downplayed the peer-to-peer throttling trial at a media conference earlier in the year.

“It’s been a little bit over-hyped because we’re really only just looking at how we can manage the traffic on the network better,” Thodey said. “There really isn’t anything heinous here at all.”

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